I’ve been on a short hiatus from blogging about homosexuality and the Bible (producing joy in some readers, and protest in others). Thanksgiving, finals’ week, and setting up the Christmas tree prevented me from finishing our discussion. Since the tree is up and I’ve almost digested all that turkey, I thought it would be good to finish our study of Romans 1, as promised.

Again, by way of reminder, I’m in the process of wrestling with the five main critiques of the idolatry 1traditional interpretation of Romans 1 (i.e. that Paul prohibits all forms of same sex intercourse). I’ve already covered the first three in previous posts.

The fourth argument against the traditional view points out that Paul is only talking about those types of homosexual behavior that are connected with idolatry. After all, Rom 1:23-25 explicitly says that the people in question were idolatrous and “therefore” God gave them over to homosexual relations, among many other things listed in 1:24-32.

I don’t know about you, but this argument seems very convincing. Look, I’m an exegete; a “Biblicist” if you will. This means that I try to look closely at what the text actually says. I’m not afraid to go where the text leads even if it offends the consensus or a particular theological tradition. After all, I’m not going to stand before some tradition or a group of pastors on judgment day. I’m going to stand before the holy God of Israel—my Creator, Savior, and Judge—and give an account to the one who breathed out His word. My allegiance is to the text (that is, the God of the text), and this far outweighs my allegiance to a traditional view of sexuality.

So I was impressed by this counterargument when I first came across it in Justin Lee’s outstanding book Torn. Justin pointed out that the gay and lesbians addressed in Rom 1:25-27 are the same ones who worshiped idols in 1:23. This of course raises the question: What does Paul think of gay people who don’t worship idols? Justin suggests that Romans 1 doesn’t clearly address these people. It only talks about idolatrous forms of homosexual sex.

This seemed like a slam-dunk, nail-in-the-coffin argument against the traditional view. But then I looked closer at Paul’s argument. Something Justin didn’t notice (or at least didn’t address) is the fact that the language of idolatry in 1:19-23 has deep roots in the creation account of Genesis 1-3. God, who is called “the Creator” (1:25), has been revealing himself “ever since the creation of the world” (1:20). Moreover, the use of “females” and “males” in Rom 1:26-27 (instead of “women” and “men”) almost certainly alludes back to Gen 1:27 (LXX). And, if you keep your finger in Genesis 1, you’ll see that Rom 1:23 clearly echoes Gen 1:26. Less clear, though probable, connections between Romans 1 and Genesis 1-3 are references to “the lie” (Rom 1:25), shame (Rom 1:27; cf. Gen 3:1, 8), knowledge (Rom 1:19, 21, 28, 32; cf. Gen 2:17; 3:5), and sentence of death (Rom 1:32; cf. Gen 2:17; 3:4-5, 20, 23).

Whatever is going on in Romans 1, Paul sees the problem as abandoning the created order.

So, what does this mean? What it means is that Paul does not seem to link homosexual sex to some first-century form of idolatry. When Paul talks about idolatry, he’s referring to a idolatry 2general turn from Creator to creation exhibited in Genesis 3. Paul therefore seems to be using homoeroticism as a symptom of the Fall of mankind, not the byproduct of Roman idolatry.

This is why Paul goes on to list a shotgun of sins in 1:28-32. He’s not saying that envy, covetousness, murder, slander, and other sins are only wrong if they are connected with idolatry: You can murder all your want, but just don’t bow down to Zeus when you’re through. What he’s saying is that all of these sins are byproducts of the Fall—turning from the Creator to creation.

Still, I keep reading interpreters who say that Paul does not have creation in view. For instance, Matthew Vines, whom many consider to have made the best biblical argument against the traditional view, tries to show that the terms “natural” and “unnatural” have nothing to do with Genesis. He says: “It’s commonly assumed by those who hold to the traditional interpretation that these terms refer back to Genesis 1 and 2, and are intended to define heterosexuality as God’s natural design and homosexuality as an unnatural distortion of that design.” Vines goes on to argue (with little historical evidence) that “nature” refers to one’s own personal disposition, not God’s creational intention. However, he ignores the close connection between “natural” and “unnatural” right there in Romans 1. Whatever we make of the terms “natural” and “unnatural,” we can’t ignore that Paul uses these terms on the heels of the creation account and Fall in Genesis 1-3.

To sum it up, the idolatry mentioned in 1:23-25 is not a specific form of idolatry in the Roman world, but humanity’s general turn from their Creator to the creation. So, contrary to what I used to think about Romans 1, I don’t see clear reason to link the type of homosexuality in Romans 1 to a specific idolatrous form of it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. What am I missing?

Series Navigation<< Is Romans 1 About Straight People Having Gay Sex?Paul Prohibits Homosexual Sex–But Why? >>

20 COMMENTS

  1. There seems to be something to say about hermeneutics here. On the one hand, I agree that the more specific our understanding is about the historical context (e.g. Roman idolatry) the more we can get into the text and decipher its original meaning. I think you’re on to something in saying, “To sum it up, the idolatry mentioned in 1:23-25 is not a specific form of idolatry in the Roman world, but humanity’s general turn from their Creator to the creation.” Paul’s insistence on echoing Genesis 1-3 is big picture stuff. I think a typical assumption, in the world of biblical studies, is that the more precise we get into what exactly was Roman homosexuality like versus Modern day homosexuality is really going “deeper” than what Paul might have intended. I don’t think Paul is necessarily trying to nail down all specifically Roman sins (even though he’s still naming a few as part of his argument) .This “big picture” about the story of evil seems to continue throughout Romans, particularly in 5:12. This “reign of death from Adam to Moses” is obviously continuing his case from what he started 1:18. The focus of Paul’s argument seems to be an interpretation of Genesis 1-3 and as he get to chapter 3, he seems to say “and oh yeah, some of the sins you see today as a result of death reigning/debased mind are covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife and… homosexuality.”

    I have one question. since Romans 1 is really the only passage that describes and prohibits both gay and lesbian sex, do you feel carrying on the traditional view with only one passage? Are there other doctrines or traditions that Christians hang on to with equal amounts of biblical support? I lied: two questions.

    • Scott, great question(s) at the end! Even though I’ve thought about it a lot, I’m still trying to sort out how to answer them.

      Why only 1 passage (or 3, if we count 1 Cor 6 and 1 Tim 1)? As I’ve said before, Paul usually highlights certain sins when it’s most relevant for his audience. But the frequency–or infrequency–is not a good way to determine Paul’s ethical value scale.

      For instance, Paul only addressed incest once (1 Cor 5). Does this mean that he thought it was a relatively insignificant sin? Or, Paul never addressed bestiality. Perhaps he thought it was totally fine to have sex with sheep.

      The point is, I don’t think we can legitimately or consistently measure how high a sin ranks on Paul’s value scale by identifying how often he talks about it. He addressed certain ethical issues when it was most necessary for a particular congregation.

      So, perhaps homoeroticism was much more prevalent in Rome than in, say, Ephesus. Or, perhaps Christians in the Roman house churches were struggling with it more than in other churches where he wrote letters. If I were to write a letter to the church of San Francisco, it wold probably look different than another letter I sent to the church in Oklahoma City.

      Now, on the flip side, it is interesting that whenever Paul mentions homoerotic activity, he often lists many other sins, such as slander and greed, and seems to place them in the same category. So ya, I think it’s terribly hypocritical for believers to single out homosexuality while they are frantically hoarding their wealth while 1 billion people in the world are suffering from grinding poverty.

      Though not a Christian, it’s comically sad when Rush Limbaugh, for instance, says that he supports a traditional view of marriage, when he’s been divorced (what is it) 3-4 times.

  2. I agree with your conclusion. As I’ve been saying all along, these (heterosexual) people acted contrary to their nature (i.e. abandoned the “created order”) [side note: whether lesbianism or anal sex is in view] as an act of rebellion against God (an act of abandoning the Creator)—“abandoning the Creator and embracing the creature.” According to Paul’s parallel in Romans 1, these rebellious acts against nature are ‘an expression’ of the fall (not so much ‘a symptom’)—of choosing the creature over the Creator. Isn’t that what Adam & Eve did? Rather than trusting that what God provided would be sufficient (every tree in the Garden), they rebelled against God and chose something against God’s wishes (the “other” Tree). In this sense, the two of them rebelled against the designed order, which was the equivalent of rebelling against God. They weren’t satisfied with what
    they knew, by nature, would nourish them sufficiently. This fall, this act of rebellion—exchanging Creator for creature—led to all kinds of sins.

    The picture in Romans 1 is a repeat of the fall—the exchange of the natural for the unnatural is an expression of the fall—of choosing the creature over the Creator. Rather than trusting that what God provided would be sufficient (the natural), they rebelled against God and “chose” something against God’s wishes (the unnatural). They rebelled against the designed order, which was the equivalent of rebelling against God. They weren’t satisfied with what they knew,
    by nature, would nourish them sufficiently. This act of rebellion—exchanging Creator for creature—led to all kinds of sin (vv. 28-31).

    The question remains unanswered: What does Paul think of gays who aren’t
    idolatrous (who don’t make such an exchange as an act of rebellion)? Sure, gay
    couples may be performing acts contrary to their given plumbing, but they
    aren’t acting contrary to their given nature (their disposition). Sure, opposite-sex unions are elevated in Scripture, but so was the union of no more than two (in Gen.), yet we see God approving of polygamy.

    What exactly did these idolaters in Romans 1 violate (and Adam & Eve, for that matter)? They violated one of the two most important commandments upon which all commandments hang: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Can’t we determine if something is against God’s will by examining whether or not it transgresses one of these commands? Dishonoring parents, murder, adultery, lying about others, stealing, and coveting will harm relationship with others. Worshiping other gods, making idols, misusing the name of Yahweh, and dishonoring the Sabbath will harm relationship with God. A rebellious exchange motivated out of “ekkaio orexis” an all-consuming lust (i.e. which amounts to idolatry, cf. Col. 3:5) violates the first command (i.e. it harms relationship with God). But how does a loving and committed gay union violate either of the two most important commands? How does it harm relationship with others or with God? How does any self-sacrificing love express abandoning Creator for creature?

    • Julie, there remains one large assumption in your argument: that Paul meant that individual humans (or a class of humans) exchange their personal disposition for something that was not natural to them. I don’t see that in the passage. The exchange seems to refer to exchanging God’s ordained order for something unnatural (not of his order) or even exchanging apparent cultural order for something unnatural. The notion of Homo Sexual orientation seems to be a modern concept (though not entirely foreign to Paul and his readers (thanks Preston for the excellent background in earlier blogs)). It seems unlikely that Paul has rules for straight people exclusively in mind. (Also it seems that Paul says the lusts that they are given up to already exist in their hearts, things that they already desired in their sin nature.)

      To your questions unless we can undo the only commands in scripture that refer to homosexuality (all of which treat it as a sin of some support) with some more clear understanding of scripture, a loving, committed relationship that violates God’s intentions for creation is still sin, it still creates separation from him. This self-sacrificing love expresses abandoning the creator for creature because it sets aside the creators plan for the creatures desire. It makes love an idol (some would say sex or lust, and that is certainly what is in view in Romans 1) by saying that my love must be right no matter what God has said about right and wrong.

      I say all this as someone who wishes there was a good excuse to abandon the traditional view. I am not a person who struggles with same-sex attraction but I am one would rather see the church focused on Gospel mission and caring for the poor than worrying about “the gays.” (Not a term I like but one I hear all too often.)

      Thanks for engaging in the discussion Julie

      • Hi Tim!

        You wrote, “Julie, there remains one large assumption in your argument: that Paul meant that individual humans (or a class of humans) exchange their personal disposition for something that was not natural to them.”

        I’m not sure I’d necessarily say that these idolatrous heterosexuals in Romans 1 exchanged something that was “natural” to them. Preston has a valid point when he suggests that the exchange is not necessarily an exchange of disposition but an exchange of God’s overall design. In other words, just as Adam and Eve did not
        trust that what God provided would sufficiently nourish them, these idolaters in Romans 1 did not trust that what God provided would sufficiently nourish them. Instead, because they lusted after
        something more/different, they abandoned God’s design (God’s sufficient “nourishment”) in an effort to appease their burning lust.

        But this brings me back to my main point. It’s not “the act” (i.e.
        homoerotic activity) in and of itself that is idolatry. It’s “the act” within the context of burning lust that is idolatry. After all, lust
        amounts to idolatry (cf. Col. 3:5). The act within a loving, committed, self-sacrificial relationship is not motivated out of burning lust (i.e. amounting to idolatry). Idolatry emerging from burning lust creates separation from Him. Idolatry does not emerge from self-sacrificial love.

        The only other mentions of homosexuality in Scripture are in Leviticus, 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. As Preston previously covered, the prohibitions in Leviticus that ban anal sex among males also ban eating catfish, bacon, etc., so that’s not the best text to confirm that all forms of homosexual sex are banned. Paul mentions some form of male-male sexual activity in the other two NT texts, but the words are difficult to define and interpret.
        Romans 1 is really the one main passage that deals most explicitly with same-sex relations. If we can’t determine beyond a shadow of a doubt that Paul bans all forms of homoerotic activity with Romans 1, we, the church, should reconsider the traditional view.

    • Julie –

      As I’ve followed this blog series on homosexuality, I’ve notice that you always have great insights and raise great questions. So thank you!

      Two initial thoughts in response to your post:

      1) You state that “we see God approving of polygamy,” even though he elevates monogamy as better. I would challenge the idea that God approved of polygamy. Can you point to an example in Scripture where God sets his stamp of approval on polygamy? Or does he simply accommodate the practice throughout earlier stages of redemptive history (just as he did other things, such as slavery and violence), with the end goal of it being eradicated among his redeemed, “new creation” people? You’re definitely correct in observing the elevation of monogamy as the ideal. But I would say God doesn’t need to explicitly approve or disapprove of polygamy in Scripture because the narrative of Scripture clearly reveals the problems inherent within the practice itself (e.g. conflict between wives with wives, and children of different moms with their half-siblings). In other words, God doesn’t seem to need to say anything explicitly in regard to polygamy, whether affirming or condemning it. The narrative seems to give us enough reasons to know that it is undesirable and, I would go as far to say, unnatural.

      2) In your final paragraph you talk about how idolaters break either of the two great commands, and then ask: “How does any self-sacrificing love express abandoning Creator for creature?” I take you to mean, how does a consensual, self-sacrificial married homosexual couple exhibit abandoning the Creator for the creature?

      To answer this we must ask what the purpose of marriage is: Why did God design marriage in the first place? Surely part of the answer lies in his desire for his image to be spread across the earth through procreation (which homosexuals cannot do). Furthermore, through additional revelation later in Scripture, we learn that marriage is about displaying Christ’s covenant relationship with his Bride, the church. Marriage isn’t primarily about two people loving each other, regardless of how sacrificial that love is. Marriage is primarily about displaying the glory of God. Homosexual partnerships cannot, by their very nature, be a picture of Christ and his church, for God designed the differences in gender to correspond to each other in the same way Christ and his Bride correspond to one another. The most foundational desire in a marriage relationship should be to glorify God, the Creator. But there are some who would rather have the joys of marriage without glorifying the Creator, exchanging his glory for their own pleasure in the same gender. So to answer your question: Two self-sacrificing married homosexuals abandon their Creator by abandoning his intent for marriage, making it about themselves instead of him. Put another way, their foundational desire in marriage is not to display Christ and his Bride, but something else (whatever that may be). This is idolatry.

      Just some initial thoughts. What do you think?

    • Thanks Julie!

      You said:

      “The question remains unanswered: What does Paul think of gays who aren’t
      idolatrous (who don’t make such an exchange as an act of rebellion)? Sure, gay
      couples may be performing acts contrary to their given plumbing, but they
      aren’t acting contrary to their given nature (their disposition).”

      The argument I put forward is, again, trying to show that Paul did not consider homoerotic activity to be a subset of idolatry, but a form of idolatry in and of itself.

      (And let me say to everyone reading in, I wouldn’t take a bullet for this reading, so please point out how I’m misreading the text–if I am. But this is the way I understand Paul’s argument at this point.)

      As I said at the end: “This is why Paul goes on to list a shotgun of sins in 1:28-32. He’s not
      saying that envy, covetousness, murder, slander, and other sins are only
      wrong if they are connected with idolatry: You can murder all your
      want, but just don’t bow down to Zeus when you’re through. What he’s
      saying is that all of these sins are byproducts of the Fall—turning from
      the Creator to creation.”

      Does this make sense?

      Also, I don’t agree with the interpretation of “para physin” (against nature, or “unnatural”) as “personal disposition” (one’s own sexual orientation). I think there is much better historical evidence (from Stoic and Hellenistic Judaism) for interpreting the phrase as “contrary to God’s creative design.” This doesn’t have to mean “violating one’s plumbing” but more probably in terms of the expression of one’s gender. (I know, this raises further questions about gender, trans-gendered people, and hermaphrodites…bear with me, I’m still working through all this.)

      • Hello again. 🙂

        You wrote, “The argument I put forward is, again, trying to show
        that Paul did not consider homoerotic activity to be a subset of idolatry, but a form of idolatry in and of itself.” And you wrote, “What he’s saying is that all of these sins are byproducts of the Fall—turning from the Creator to creation.”

        I agree. I believe a few of my previous posts were headed in the direction of which you speak. The parallel Paul presents shows that this rebellious exchange (a sin, of course—it’s a form of idolatry!) is a picture of abandoning the Creator for the creature. Your connection to Gen. 1-3 further supports this idea. The Fall of Adam and Eve is a picture of man exchanging the Creator for the creature (i.e. idolatry). Their idolatry led to many sins (cf. Rom. 5:12). This mirrors Romans 1. As a result of exchanging the Creator for the creature in the act of exchanging the natural for the unnatural (i.e. idolatry), many sins followed (vv. 28-31).

        I understand that Paul is not saying those sins (vv. 28-31) are
        okay outside of homoerotic activity (i.e. idolatry). He’s saying they stem from homoerotic activity (i.e. idolatry). But we need to
        acknowledge the type of homoerotic activity of which Paul is speaking. Loving gay unions are simply not in view—they
        do not lead to “all kinds of sins” (vv. 28-31). Idolatry leads to all kinds of sins. The type of homoerotic activity (i.e. idolatry) of which Paul speaks leads to all kinds of sins. Why?

        These idolaters, pumped up on burning lust (cf. Rom. 1:27), are heterosexuals. Homoerotic activity, motivated out of lust, is their form of idolatry. Again, I’m still not sure if it’s all about anal sex or if lesbianism, too, is in view. In any event, the homoerotic activity, in this case, is a form of idolatry specifically because it is a deliberate and rebellious exchange motivated out of burning lust. There is no deliberate and rebellious exchange motivated out of burning lust going on with loving gay unions. So, we still don’t know what Paul thinks of gays who aren’t idolatrous (who don’t make such an exchange as an act of rebellion).

        “But each one is tempted when he is carried away by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is
        accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).

    • Julie, you said: ” But how does a loving and committed gay union violate either of the two most important commands?” (love God, love neighbor)

      I would say that if my reading of Romans 1 is correct, it violates “love God.” That is, if Paul views gay and lesbian relations as against God’s creative design and therefore a form of idolatry, then this would be, by definition, not loving God.

      I don’t think there has to be visible destruction for an act to be considered a sin. For instance, what if two Christians got married. They didn’t have any kids. And 5 years into their marriage, they fell out of love and both fell in love with other Christians. They decided to get a divorce and remarry other believers. Are there any clear signs that their decision is destructive? What if they are loving God and loving neighbor? Is the divorce therefore validated?

      Some would say yes. But I’d say given what God says about divorce, they are not loving God in their decisions because they have violated their Creator’s design for marriage.

      As a parallel, IF God ordained marriage to be between man and woman and not between people of the same gender, then violating this design would be violating “love of God” (love comprises obedience to God’s will).

      Just with the two Christians who fell out of love and happily divorced and remarriage, there are no visible signs of destructive behavior, but still a violation of the Creator’s will.

      Now, admittedly, all of this assumes that I’m interpreting Romans 1 correctly. I can certainly be wrong, but I’d need to be shown where and why. So far, I haven’t been convinced of all the alternative interpretations to the traditional view.

  3. Scott: i like your questions. but can i flip it on it’s head? Are there any passages that argue for or can be used as evidence for the non-traditional view?

    The way I see it, there is too much stacked against the non-traditional view:

    1. The created order of a husband and wife in Genesis is never abrogated in the NT (apart from perhaps Paul’s encouragement for those who can to remain celibate)
    2. All OT & NT references to homosexual acts are condemnatory towards those engaged in such acts (even if one were to accept that in all cases the homosexual acts were not the cause of condemnation)
    3. The NT contains no positive mention of homosexual acts or homosexual relationships
    4. The religious millieu of the NT (first century Judaism) assumes the traditional view

    I would happily change my view (from the traditional one) if there was just some evidence!

    • Billy,

      That’s pretty much where I’m at. Even point in an of themselves–as I think you’d admit–don’t prove a traditional view. But cumulatively, I think they make the traditional view much more convincing.

      Your point 2 is what’s been the subject of my 20 blogs (gosh, has it been that many??!), and I will admit that there are some strong arguments for seeing the TYPE of homoeroticism condmened as non-consensual, or at least not reflective of committed gay unions that we have today.

      But having worked through all the arguments and all the passages, I still think there are much greater parallels to the type of homosexualty that the biblical authors were address and that which is in question today.

      I’m still learning. And I certainly could be wrong. But so for, I still agree with your 4 points.

    • Hi Billy.

      I’m late to this party… Just catching up on my RSS feed. But I’ve heard this POV before and it confuses me.

      Your points 2 through 4 apply to slavery too.

      All OT & NT references to slavery are favorable to the practice (even if one were to accept that in all cases slavery was not to be condoned).

      The NT contains no negative mention of slavery.

      The religious milieu of the NT (first century Judaism) assumes the traditional view.

      So without any evidence, should we revert to the traditional church position that slavery is morally permissible? If not, then why is it appropriate to take a broad view of the morality of slavery and a narrow view of the morality of homosexuality?

      • Ford1986,

        Thanks for the interaction!

        So, from your point of view, there is no form of slavery that is morally permissible? Therefore you feel that you can choose to contradict the bible which permits slavery?

        Allow me to sketch out your propositions (please correct me if I’m wrong!)

        1. We can contradict the bible when we think it is wrong
        2. The bible allows slavery
        3. The bible is wrong, slavery (of any form) is wrong (based on 1. and 2.)
        4. The bible disallows homosexual acts
        Therefore: The bible is wrong, homosexual acts are allowed (based on 1. , 4. and the precedent concluded by 3.)

        The knock-down problem with this argument is that it does not hold a high view of scripture. That is a requirement of our discussion. Without that assumption we may as well never read the bible and just decide what we want to do ourselves (aka be pagans).

        The second problem, from my perspective, is that I do think that slavery is morally permissible. I think slavery is morally neutral, it is merely a form of employment/ownership.

        Therefore I do not think your argument can work. Maybe you could get better traction if you parallel the role of women in church leadership? I would need to think about that one…

        • Billy –

          I’m a little taken aback that you think slavery – in any form – is morally permissible. To be clear, when I say slavery, I mean owning another person as property (even in indentured servitude). To rob another human being of their agency and freedom is completely contrary to the gospel as I understand it. It is a position of domination intended to serve the interests of the slave owner at the expense of the slave.

          Slavery is wrong not because I think it’s wrong, but because it diminishes the personhood of others. Christ’s example was one of standing in solidarity with those who had been marginalized; his sacrifice on the cross was a selfless act of unconditional love for humanity. I believe the gospel compels (and commands) us to recognize the full worth and dignity of every human being – not to dominate, oppress or otherwise subordinate others.

  4. Is it worth adding that all those things are forms of idolatry? Worshiping the things themselves, our our desires or intellect, by serving them over God? I mean, legitimate as it is, one could make an idol out of sex with one’s wife, prioritising it disproportionately and over serving God etc?

  5. Hi Lance!

    You wrote, “Can you point to an example in Scripture where God
    sets his stamp of approval on polygamy?”

    Sure. I, personally, think it’s inherent in 2 Samuel 12:8. God reminds David of all the things He has done for David: anointed him, made him king over Israel, gave him his master’s house, gave him his master’s wives. If having more than one wife would have received God’s disapproval, I don’t believe God would have
    given David these wives. God blesses David with these things; God blesses David with his master’s wives. Polygamy can lead to problems and it seems to me that it’s not God’s ideal (as seen in the Genesis account). But, as seen with David, even less than God’s ideal can be a blessing.

    You wrote, “Why did God design marriage in the first place? Surely part of the answer lies in his desire for his image to be spread across the earth through procreation (which homosexuals cannot do).”

    Sure, but when couples can’t (or don’t want to) reproduce, that doesn’t mean their marriage doesn’t fulfill the purpose God has for marriage. Agreed?

    You wrote, “Furthermore, through additional revelation later in Scripture, we learn that marriage is about displaying Christ’s covenant relationship with his Bride, the church.”

    Agreed. The purpose of marriage is more about covenant relationship than reproducing. After all, we won’t even be given in marriage (Mt. 22:30), which generally leads to reproduction, in the eternal kingdom.

    You wrote, “Marriage isn’t primarily about two people loving each other, regardless of how sacrificial that love is.”

    Isn’t the glory of God shown through self-sacrificial love? In
    what possible way are we the image bearers of God outside of self-sacrificial love?

    You wrote, “Two self-sacrificing married homosexuals abandon their Creator by abandoning his intent for marriage, making it about themselves instead of him.”

    If God’s intent for marriage is covenant relationship based on self-sacrificial love, how can it be said that two people in covenant relationship based on self-sacrificial love abandon God’s intent for marriage?

    • Julie –

      Thanks for your response!

      Regarding polygamy, I can’t say for sure because I don’t have access to any resources on the text, but might it be possible that God didn’t give David Saul’s wives because he condoned polygamy, but because of the significance of what it would have meant for David to take Saul’s wives? If I’m not mistaken, sleeping with an ousted king’s wives was a way of staking one’s claim on a kingdom, hence Absalom’s actions on the palace roof when David himself was ousted (2 Sam. 16:20-22). Anyway, I’m not saying this dogmatically, but I can potentially see in this situation that, once again, God is not condoning the unnatural (i.e. polygamy) but accommodating it because of the stage in redemptive history.

      I appreciated you dealing with individual parts of my second point, but I think you failed to grasp the main idea. (Probably my fault for not arguing clearly enough.) The main idea was not that God is glorified when two people love each other self-sacrificially. He surely is! But we don’t need to be married to do that. The main point is that God designed marriage to display the self-sacrificial love between two people who are DIFFERENT (caps for emphasis throughout, not yelling).

      You asked, “Isn’t the glory of God shown through self-sacrificial love?” Certainly it is. But Jesus did not practice self-sacrificial love toward himself. Rather, he self-sacrificially loved his BRIDE. Again, we’re talking about the purpose of MARRIAGE glorifying God, not just any relationship. I think the intent in Eph. 5 is for God’s glory to be magnified through the display of two different but corresponding (i.e. male and female) persons who self-sacrificially love one another.

      In short, my issue is not with self-sacrificial love in general. We can demonstrate that in ANY relationship. But the marriage relationship is intended to show that type of love between a husband and WIFE, just as Christ and his BRIDE.

      What do you think? Do you agree that God intends Christ and his Bride to correspond with a man and his wife?

      • Hi Lance. 🙂

        As I mentioned, I think the 2 Samuel 12 passage implies God approved of polygamy. It sounds like you think that God allowed polygamy rather than approved of it. If polygamy is a sin (I think that’s what you’re saying?), are you saying God overlooks unrepentant sin? I don’t think polygamy is a sin. I don’t see how God would overlook His people practicing sin.

        I agree Paul draws a parallel between Christ and His Bride
        with a man and his wife, but I don’t see how this metaphor suggests that a marriage outside the parameters of one man and one woman cannot display the glory of God. That would mean that all the Christian polygamous marriages in the first century were unable to display the glory of God. A gay married couple doesn’t abandon God’s intent for
        marriage any more than the Christian polygamous marriages in the first century did.

        I believe God’s intent for marriage is covenant relationship based on self-sacrificial love, and so I don’t see how it can be said that two people in covenant relationship based on self-sacrificial love abandon God’s intent for marriage.

  6. Thanks for the response Julie,

    To avoid talking past each other, I think it best to just be direct.

    I think our disagreement here is that you see Paul addressing heterosexual people ëxhang(ing) the truth about God for lie” leading to excessive lust which is the context of the homoerotic activity here. (Correct me if I’ve summarized incorrectly).

    I don’t see sexual orientation being a factor here. I believe that because we exchange the truth of God for a lie (idolatry in the most general sense), God gives us up to “the lusts of our hearts;” which might include (thought not necessarily) “Women exchang(ing) their natural relations or those that were contrary to nature” and men “(giving) up their natural relations with women and (being) consumed with passion for one another; Though it may also include any of the other sins listed in verses 29-31.

    I think the point is because we worshipped creature rather than creator, God gives/gave us up to our sinful desires. The specific desires seem to be cases in point, not definitive examples.

    I had some thoughts about your other statements but I think they just cloud the main point, I will however say that I agree that we need to reconsider the traditional view to ensure that we follow Scripture (on this and many other issues), I just don’t see enough here to overthrow it.

    Thanks again for your thought provoking reply.

    Tim

    • Hi Tim. 🙂

      I think sexual orientation is a factor, because Paul tells us that part of their idolatry was their abandonment of “their” women’s natural function. This implies they’re straight
      men who gave up relations with their women to have relations with one another. And it was excessive lust that led them to make that exchange. In other words, idolatry
      (the exchange) emerged out of lust. And their sin of idolatry led to all kinds of sins (Rom. 1:28-31).

      You mention that when men and women commit idolatry, God gives them up to the lusts of their hearts, which, for some, leads to men and women giving up their natural relations and, instead, having relations with one another. Okay, but this means they’re heterosexuals giving up natural relations with one another. Lust can lead people into all kinds of sexual acts outside of marriage. That’s not okay. However, people who are born gay and enter into loving, committed unions do not do so as a result of burning lust for one another, so I don’t see how they’re in view here.

      I don’t know if this makes a difference or not, but Paul is
      speaking about a specific group of people. I don’t believe he’s generalizing. Paul gives a specific order of events.
      First, their women exchanged the natural function (either lesbianism or anal sex). Then, “in the same way” the men abandoned the natural function of the women. This exchange took place with these specific people. Paul isn’t warning us that lust and idolatry will lead to heterosexuals becoming gay. He’s saying that lust leads to idolatry, and
      in this case, it led to straight men and women abandoning natural relations with one another to engage in something unwholesome.